Each year, hundreds of thousands of people choose to find a therapist or counselor to address their mental health concerns. But we know that only a portion of people who need help actually get it. The results of a comprehensive national survey have just been published and shed some light on what mental health looks like across the social landscape of the U.S. The full report, titled Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Mental Health Findings is available online in its original format through the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
So what does this survey tell us? Here are the broad statistics: Approximately 45.1 million adults (19.9%) in the U.S. experienced some degree of mental health issues during 2009. Of those, almost 1 in 5 also struggles with a substance abuse disorder. When looking at very serious mental health concerns, 11 million adults (4.8%) were affected. Over 8 million adults considered suicide; 2.2 million made plans, and 1 million actually attempted suicide. The survey also showed that some populations are more prone to mental health concerns than others: young adults were most at risk and older adults were least at risk; women reported more mental health issues than men; and the unemployed were more at risk than those with jobs.
But despite establishing the degree of these problems, the survey showed just how untreated they go. Of those 45.1 million adults with mental health concerns, fewer than four in ten (37.9%) saw a therapist or counselor for their struggles. And among people with very serious mental illness, 4.4 million (49.8%) went untreated. There’s no proof as to why treatment is so low: it’s likely a combination of stigma, financial access, and lack of education about mental health and the benefits of therapy. But as the numbers show, mental health concerns are common and shared across all demographics: there’s no excuse for it to be on the back burner.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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